NICOSIA - Binance's Cyprus unit has applied to be removed from Cyprus' register of crypto asset service providers, the securities regulator website showed on Wednesday, in a move Binance said would allow it to focus on its larger European businesses.

It was unclear when Binance applied to deregister. The exchange, the world's biggest, announced its registration with the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission in October 2022. A source at the regulator said on Wednesday that Binance never launched its business in Cyprus.

The Cyprus registration allowed Binance to offer spot trading, custody and other services in compliance with Cyprus's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing rules, the exchange has previously said on its website.

A spokesperson for Binance said it was pulling back on Cyprus to sharpen its focus on its other companies in the European Union ahead of the rollout of the EU's crypto asset regulations (MiCA).

"We are working hard to prepare our business to be fully compliant with MiCA when it is implemented in the next 18 months. To that end, we have made the decision to pull back efforts in Cyprus to focus on our efforts on fewer regulated entities in the EU, especially our larger registered markets where we already have a mature footprint, including France, Italy and Spain," the spokesperson said.

"Binance will continue to comply with applicable laws of the European Union."

Last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Binance, its founder Changpeng Zhao, and the operator of its purportedly independent U.S. exchange. Binance said it intends to defend itself "vigorously" against the SEC's charges.

Binance said on its website that it has licences and registrations across six European Union states, including France and Italy.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft in London and Michele Kambas in Nicosia; editing by Tom Wilson, Alexandra Hudson and David Evans)